CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘Road Trip’ Category

Blystone Farm and Butcher Shop (& Deli & Taproom), Canal Winchester

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 30, 2017

Blystone Farms sign

“Lord, I was born a rambling man, looking for a new lunch spot as often as I can. But when it comes to eating, I hope you’ll understand, as for now, I’m largely a homebound man.” By my makeup, I need to roam and explore, discover new things, etc. Over the last six months I have been adding a lot to my to read lists, to listen to lists, to watch lists, etc. As for my to eat list, it is extensive. When I hear about or notice a good candidate I start a blog post with the name of the destination and any bits that caught my interest others mentioned or based on a quick search of the interwebs. (I have 55 more places on my blog list). Canal Winchester has been a frequent topic of conversation over the last year due to Brewdog, and more than once someone would suggest Blystone Farm and Butcher shop as worth a visit. One guys description of a deli sandwich from the Blystone peaked my interest to the extreme, he loved talking about the sandwich almost as he enjoyed consuming it.

With the breaking of weather in the spring and the breaking of myself from a lack of adventures I opted to combine work with a little pleasure in May. I assigned myself the “southern leg” of deliveries for the Columbus Ale Trail Brew books. I plotted out an all back roads route to make deliveries to Grove City Brewing, Brew Brothers, Loose Rail Brewing, Brewdog and Combustion Brewery. It was a great day to drive and conveniently Blystone was just slightly off my plotted path on my way to Loose Rail. (As a side, note, I did find a cool Taco Truck called Taco Time by Don Carlos on SR 317 in a VFW parking lot about one mile from Brew Brothers, that will be a future post here or on Taco Trucks Columbus).

Blystone Farm deli

I did not have any expectations of Blystone and I could not find much online (other than a very good post by Columbus Culinary Connection) so I just knew it was a farm based butcher shop with a deli. As soon as I saw the place in the distance, I knew I would like it. The moment I walked through the door it was love at first whiff. Blystone offers a full service butcher shop offering a wide range and variety of cuts of mea, many originating on the farm. The shop is also stocked with a deep selection of craft beers, wines, Ohio and other cheese and local products such as Sophie’s Pieorgi. As I was walking around the ship enthralled by my choices one of the butchers asked if I needed anything so I replied, “a lunch recommendation.” He walked through what on the menu originated in the shop and suggested I try the ham and cheese, especially since he knew the ham had been freshly sliced an hour ago. He also said the wings may meet my fancy as well. He then pointed me to the new taproom / restaurant.

Blystone Beer Menu

I loved the rustic look of the attached dining area. Positioning myself at the bar, I spied the beer list on the wall and was impressed with the choices in a largely Ohio based tap selection. I asked a few questions before placing my order. The soup of the day was a Mediterranean soup with a mix of unusual ingredients so I ordered that as well as a Ham & Cheese Sandwich, chicken wings and a beer flight. The woman behind the bar was immediately impressed by my ambitions. In this case, even for me, I may have been pushing my own envelope which exceeds the good sense and tolerances of most mere mortals.

I cannot recall much about the soup other than it was flavorful and I liked it. I think that is because anything would have been forgotten in comparison to my two lunch orders. The Ham (house made) and Cheese (Ohio) sandwich was served on fresh thick Texas Toast style bread topped with homemade BBQ sauce and served with a pile of outstanding steak fries. The flavor of the ham stood out among an outstanding supporting cast of. The steak fries were perfectly executed, sturdy, firm, well salted and filling.

wings and sandwich

As for the wings, these are superior on all indicators. I’m not a big fan of wings in general. However, in the rare instance I find them to be the exception to the greasy, mediocre base line, I get a bit excited. The Blystone wings are clearly not dumped out of a frozen bag. These wings were big, filled with flavor and did not need anything to dip, bathe or a sauce to swim in. I’ll place these in the top three in Central Ohio with O’Reilly’s and Smokehouse being a strong tie and weak third place respectively.

My approach to lunch attracted a bit of attention. Everyone in eyeshot asked about the wings. A woman I think may have been one of the owners was very interested in my opinions of the meal and I think my server wanted to adopt me although I am older than her.

This spot warrants further research but my first impression is highly favorable and flavorful.

Blystone Farm

Blystone Farm
8677 Oregon Rd, Canal Winchester
(614) 833-1211
(3 miles from Brewdog, 4 miles from Loose Rail)

Posted in beer, Road Trip, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Mama Renie’s Pizza: McArthur, OH – Pie Post Script

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 15, 2017

My core readership of 137 may recall my various posts concerning McArthur Ohio or as I know call it the western oasis of the Hocking Valley and future home of my Southeast Ohio Bigfoot & Identified Bigfoot Sanctuary and Interpretive Center. Those said readers may recall my one lament about McArthur, not trying the pie at Mama Renie’s. Well last Thursday, I corrected that. I took two cohorts on a sales trip to Southeast Ohio to explore Family Donut Shop, Mama Renie’s, O’Betty’s Hot Dogs, Casa Nueva, Jackie O’s, Little Fish Brewery, Hocking Valley Winery, Brewery 33 and Loose Rail Brewing.

At Mama Renie’s the three of us walked in at lunch time and ordered three waters, two slices of pie and one order of chips, which seemed odd to our server as well as everyone eating in the establishment. However when I explained I was taking my colleagues on a progressive lunch through the Hocking Valley she recalled me from my previous visit, laughed and asked if I wanted ice cream with the pie. “Yes, Ma’am.”

The pie is made by a local pie maker that by report has garnered many awards at county fairs and the like. We sampled Peach Pie and Strawberry Pie. My two companions are very experienced eaters, both are from the Restaurant Industry, and their opinions aligned with mine. These were classic Ohio comfort food slices of pie. The fillings were simple and full of flavor, the crust was neither too flakey or too crusty, in the Goldilocks zone of just right. And unlike the fancy, artisan, hipster pies of Columbus, these were not small slices for $6 but large slices for $2.99.

So, if you happen to be in McArthur and don’t have room for a pizza, pop in to Mama Renie’s for a slice of pie.

slices of pie

Posted in culinary knowledge, Ohio, pies, Road Trip | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

You’d Rather Rax, But Thought They Were Through

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 13, 2017

In December 2016 it was brought to my attention that Rax still existed. Crack business reporter Dan Eaton was my source. However, he did not respond to my request for an interview (you know how the liberal Elite Media are). I also contacted the owner of most of the remaining Rax Restaurants and did not hear back from him.

As a Columbus native, I have vague memories of Rax from the 1980’s. I often confused the brand with Arby’s. Both focused on roast beef sandwiches but in that era Rax had shakes that my female friends obsessed about and they had a salad and food bar that exceeded the depth of Wendy’s had to offer. Columbus was a fast and casual food boom town in this era with the likes of Wendy’s, Damon’s, G.D. Ritzys, Cooker, Mark Pi’s, Max & Erma’s, Charlie’s Steakery, BW-3 (back when we called it that) and more expanding throughout the Midwest and the world. In the case of most – they grew too fast, got top-heavy with management and big-headed on the need to saturate the market. Most died out through the late 1980’s and 1990’s, were restructured / went bankrupt multiple times and scaled down to a few locations instead of several hundred or were never to be heard of again……

Or maybe not. Cooker had a rebirth (and died). There is one G.D. Ritzy’s in Huntington West Virginia. My beloved Zantigo (so much better than Taco Bell) still exists in Minneapolis. There is always hope.

For Rax, let’s pop into the Wayback Machine for a quick Rax refresher. The restaurant concept began in 1967 in Springfield Ohio as Jax. (Note Arby’s started in 1964 in Boardman Ohio). The concept was sold in 1969. It was then known as RIX. It rebranded as Rax and opened the first franchise under the Rax name in Columbus of course. By the late 1980’s there were over 500 locations in 38 states. The death spiral started shortly thereafter with Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed at the end of 1992. Wendy’s started to acquire some locations to transform them into Tim Horton’s.

My current research shows that eight to 10 Rax restaurants remain. Several are owned by one company with one rogue / independent operation in Bellefontaine. Over the last two months my travels took me near two Rax locations so I decided to investigate.

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My first exploration took me to the Rax in Lancaster. The Rax location here is located a few miles east of Downtown. This may be an original location of from the glory days of the Rax empire. The phrase Endless Salad Bar which was a company slogan in the olden days is painted over on the sign. The furniture and carpet inside do look like they date to the 1980’s. The staff wear Rax uniforms. The cups also sport the Rax logo but everything else is generic – sauce packets, sandwich wrappers, etc. The menu seems to feature the core menu items of Rax of days of yore: baked potatoes, curly fries and shakes. There is also a special offered, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bowl of chili. I ordered a regular Rax to test out the signature menu item. The roast beef was sliced paper-thin, has a light brown / gray color to it had a very specific smell and taste to it. My recollection of meals at Rax 30 years ago was that the key was to load up on sauces. I took that exact approach in the modern day, covering part of my sandwich in generic BBQ sauce, part in generic Horseradish sauce and I left a small section plain so I could fairly assess the sandwich.

rax-lancaster

I tried the twisty fries and a shake. All in all, OK.

Having not heard back from Dan Eaton or Rax World HQ, I decided I needed to try another Rax to see if I really would rather Rax.

Another opportunity presented itself on my way to Family Donut Shoppe and Wittich’s Chocolates. Traversing south on SR 23, I spied a bill board for a Rax in Circleville.

Pulling into the spot, I noted some indirect irony. I had to do some googling to confirm my suspicions. The original Rax location in Circleville was taken over by a Tim Hortons. The current Rax (circa 2011) replaced a former Wendy’s location.

rax-circleville

This location (being newer) was little more upscale than the Lancaster location. It featured more furniture. The signage and branded items (shirts, cups, etc.) were exactly the same, right down to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bowl of chili special.

I tried a regular Rax here and a BBC (Beef, Bacon and Cheddar) which is reported to be the big seller in the chain. I’m glad I scouted out Rax but mainly as an homage to history, I think I would rather Arby’s instead.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Back to Family Donut Shoppe for a Burger…..

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 8, 2017

Readers may recall several mentions of Family Donut Shoppe in my multiple explorations of SR 56 on my way to Athens. I will come clean, in the spirit of glasnost (all hail President Putin), in addition to my normal investigations I have been scouting the area to buy property for a combination Bigfoot Sanctuary, Pony Ranch and Tiny/Little House court. Anyone that wants to donate to the cause, contact me directly for investment opportunities.

Anyway I vowed I would head back to Family Donut Shoppe for what looked to be a good burger. I did try on the day before Thanksgiving only to find…after driving all the way there, that a business that is open 24 hours a day…decided to close early and I missed them by 15 minutes. It was a long drive home.

I tried again last week with better results. The hamburger was well worth the $2.30 I paid for it. It was a handmade patty on a fresh bun and liberally doused in mustard, ketchup and pickles by request. You can see a photo below.

family-2

I saw a hand written sign for vegetable soup on the wall so I ordered that as well. It was well worth the $2.25 for at least a 12 ounce serving of soup in a reuseable plastic bowl. The soup broth was homemade with a large volume of frozen vegetables cooked into it and a very generous proportion of ground beef. There was some cabbage thrown in for good measure. Vegetarians beware, old school vegetable soup is often not entirely made of vegetables.

family-1

And of course I ordered a selection of a dozen plus donuts to take home to share. These donuts are exceptionally good. Fans of my Ohio Donut Trail may know that Family Donut Shop is considered among the top three donuteries of the thirty-three I have evaluated around the state of Ohio (to date). The dilemma with these donuts is that I have not been able to evaluate these head to head with Donald’s Donuts and DK Diner on the same day. I did take these donuts to a few hardcore fans of Donald’s Donuts who had tried some of those a few days previous. They too are torn. It is only 82.7 miles from door to door of these two spots so if I get DK Diner donuts before I leave Columbus and sample all three after arriving in Zanesville I may someday have an answer for this critical issue. In the meantime, we are certain that Family Donut has the best custard filled donuts (neither Donald’s or DK offer this style).

In you go to Family Donut Shoppe (only 15 minutes from Chillicothe) please call ahead. While they are open 24 hours, on the very odd chance they opt to close early you do not want to be left holding an empty bag at the mid point of your journey. Let me tell you it is a bitter drive home (but pretty if you take SR 93) without donuts or the satisfaction of a burger in your belly.

box of donuts

donuts at Family Donut Shoppe

Posted in donuts, hamburgers, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

8 Sisters Bakery, Mt. Gilead (The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 11, 2016

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To begin, there are not eight sisters working at 8 Sisters Bakery. The owner is one of 8 sisters in her family with a long baking heritage. Although in the beginning there were four of the sisters working together, now it is one sister with at least 3 locations, probably 4 (Marion) and maybe five (Marengo)? It was difficult for me to determine with an online search how many total locations are open to the public. The business opened in 2010 but the baking tradition started in the Amish upbringing of the owner (who left the community later in life) and some exposure on farmers markets in the early days.

I visited the newest location in the 8 Sisters empire which opened in September of 2016. Located in the Bonecutter Mall (on SR 95) a short hop off of I-71 (exit 155) the exterior would be described at best as nondescript and unassuming. Inside the space is warm, inviting and fairly expansive with some seating and a lot to look at. Within the confines there is a coffee shop, some hand painted baking themed signage and of course a cornucopia of baked goods coming from a deep and very busy open kitchen.

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A handful of breakfast and lunch items are available. The tagline of the business is “You Name it, We Bake it” so I will offer a sample of the baked goods available at this location: donuts, specialty donuts, cookies, handmade candies, fruit pies, cream pies, pies, sandwich breads, brownies, pumpkin bars, muffins, bagels, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cakes and wedding cakes. Oh, my!

I asked for a random assortment of a dozen regular and specialty donuts. I sampled the following: buttermilk, red velvet, chocolate, strawberry cheesecake (in stick form) yeast/glazed, sticky bun, apple fritter & Cookies and Cream (cookie bits). Two donuts I did not try but am very intrigued by are Buckeye (peanut butter and chocolate of course) and Chop Suey Roll.

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My first impression of these donuts was good. While these are the most expensive dozen donuts in my donut trail research (by about $5 more) these were without a doubt the heaviest by weight and volume, easily weighing twice as much as the typical box of a dozen donuts. The cake donuts in particular were very dense. The icing and fillings in all the donuts were fresh and flavorful. The verdict, these are good donuts.

As I departed, I decided this would be a good opportunity to explore Mt. Gilead. I have only had two previous exposures to the county seat of Morrow county. In high school, when I listened to Q-FM 96, the tag line of the station was “We Rock Columbus” but DJ’s would localize it by saying we rock -> Clintonville, Whitehall, Westerville, etc. Every once in a blue moon they would say, Mt. Gilead….and then giggle a little. My second encounter involved a shattered dream. I once knew a young lady named Anna Bell F (name hidden to protect you stealing a good idea from me). She was easily one of the three best bakers I have encountered in my lifetime. I had big dreams of, like a Kentucky Colonel with a prized racehorse, taking her on the Ohio County Fair circuit and dominating all of the prize ribbon contests for a decade or more. She never bought into this agenda. Perhaps she was afraid of the fame or terrified of me wearing a Kentucky Colonel suit all of the time. That was all I had to work with as a frame of reference for Mt. Gilead.

The last 11 miles of my trip to 8 Sisters Bakery involved a white knuckled drive over a long stretch of black ice on I-71. Therefore, I decided that it was worth the seven mile drive to downtown Mt. Gilead to take the long way home via State Route 42. On my journey up, the last few miles before I made the turn off on exit 155 all of could think of was “I am going to be really pissed if I die on a f**king donut run).” And I did not want to drive back thinking “I’m going to be really pissed off if I die before I eat all of these f**king donuts.”

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Downtown Mt. Gilead is charming and features all of the elements we expect in a small Ohio town: mom and pop shops, a town square, an old movie theater, some Donald Trump/Pence signs and a civil war monument (this time an Obelisk instead of the typical bearded general statue). There was (as I previously documented there is a state law mandating this) a small bakery as well which just happened to be another 8 Sisters location. I decided to pop in here as well for perspective. The shop on South Main street is very small and does not have 1/10th of the offerings of the other 8 Sisters I stocked up at earlier. But, as I would have expected, as I entered the door I was greeted warmly and called honey, just like the other location. Some things never change.

8 Sisters Bakery
6200 State Route 95
Mount Gilead
(Closed Sunday)

8 Sisters Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in bakery, desserts, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spudnut Donuts- Berea (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 7, 2016

Spudnuts sign

The call of duty for the Ohio Donut trail led me just south of Cleveland – Berea, Ohio. I’ve had my eye on Spudnuts for several years and as luck would have it, this special spot is not far Fat Head Brewing and what better way to prepare for drinking beer than loading up on donuts.

Spudnuts Building Berea

Let’s take a quick step into the Wayback Machine to discuss the place Spudnuts has in American Donut history. The first Spudnuts started in Salt Lake City in 1940 by a couple of brothers with a knack for kneading a special potato based flour. The uniqueness of the recipe and wartime shortages made Spudnuts a favored snack. Fueled by low franchise fees by 1954 there were over three hundred Spudnuts in 38 states. In the early 1970’s numbers continued to swell including 170 Japanese Spudnut locations. However by 1979 the company ceased operation and the franchises were left on their own without access to the special Spudnut flour. Today about 37 independently owned Spudnuts soldier on throughout the country (including one in nearby Mentor).

box of Spudnut Donuts

This location features about thirty kinds of donuts, including the bestsellers Toasted Coconut, Butter Pecan and Maple Bacon. Most of the styles are round, yeasty donuts with special fillings such as key lime pie, apple jelly, maple bacon, raspberry, strawberry, apricot, custard/cream, cherry, blueberry, peach and chocolate cream. Because it is Northeast Ohio, there is a maple donut and because Cleveland Rocks there is a Maple Bacon donut. The donut makers fry about twenty pounds of bacon a week to meet demand. I’ve encountered a few bacon donuts in my donut daze but to date most have had bacon as an afterthought or gimmick. At this Spudnuts the bacon is piled on thickly and it tastes great!

My favorite here was the Cruller. A donut style that I rarely encounter but the version here was exceptional. It was fluffy and airy but had an incredible flavor and mouth feel.

I continued to sample from my box of twelve over the next three days and found these Spudnuts are long lived and maintained a fresh flavor well past 72 hours. So next time you are passing by, drop in for a spudnut.

Spudnut details

Spudnut Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in CLEGourmand, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

4 Mile Bakery (& General Store & Furniture Store), Jackson, (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 18, 2016

Initially, I was skeptical that Jackson Ohio could offer two candidates to the Ohio Donut Trail. My journey to 4 Mile Bakery (et. al) was much longer that four miles. It took me over the freeway, through the woods, past some large houses, horse pastures and more. As a place far from home and only open a few days a week, it was a long time for the stars to align in such a manner as to allow me to visit and take care of the rest of my “business” in Jackson.

My first thought was the business might not be focused enough to deliver a good donut. In addition to 4 Mile Bakery, I saw references to a general store, fireplaces and a furniture store. Sometimes all were listed together or just a combination of two were spelled out…..or alluded to.

When I pulled up, these were the two things that caught my eye.

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Walking down the wooden porch, passing by rockers for sale, I walked through the door to see the set up of a typical general store. Then I saw an aisle of almost any candy I have encountered in my life, then another of the Amish store du jour staples of pickled vegetables, jerkies and whatnot. Then I spied row after row of self service donut cases filed to the brim with styles of donuts I have never encountered…..ever. Among these new discoveries: maple pecan apple fritters, fritter toes, apple fritters shaped like feet (with the toes still attached), donut pillows (small square donuts filled with cream / creme which I would not mind falling asleep on), pretzel shaped donuts covering in maple and giant yeast donuts that are two times bigger than any previously sighted / cited donut in my life experience. Those are just some of the styles I saw displayed.

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Mrs. Gourmand believes the maple covered pretzel donut may be her favorite item I have dragged home from my donut trail expeditions. The blueberry rated highly with her as well. In order to continue researching the donut trail it is important that certain people of influence are occasionally not disgruntled in spite of my being absent from home. A third saving grace for 4 Mile Bakery and _______ is that Mrs. Gourmand believes their custard may be as good as the current custard champion front-runner Family Donut Shoppe. This bodes well since the wife of my occasional research assistant, the Grumpy Old Man, whom we refer to as the Queen, has only been pleased by one trophy from the donut trail, (and perhaps never pleased by anything else….ever) a custard donut from Family Donut Shoppe. If a place can offer a custard donut fit for a Queen, then then is hope for the Grumpy old man and a continuation of the Ohio Donut Trail.

4 Mile Bakery (on Facebook)
6005 4 Mile Rd, Jackson, OH 45640

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Tender Fluff, Jackson (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 17, 2016

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My quest to wrap up the southern leg of the Ohio Donut Trail took me to Jackson Ohio to try not one but two donuteries. My first stop was in Jackson proper to visit Tender Fluff Donuts. The name has a decades old history in Jackson with the original location on Broadway. In 2012, Tender Fluff drifted away from the town center to slightly off the beaten railroad tracks on Harding Ave. The present location is three times larger than Tender Fluff 1.0 and it needs to be. By report the space creates 200 – 300 dozen donuts a day. In addition to customers frequenting the shop the business delivers to over 30 locations in the region.

The place does not make an impression which makes one want to “come hither”. It is a nondescript cinder block building with minimal signage and limited frontage and windows. Just a short hop away from the railroad tracks and while not at a major intersection, the area seems to be a high volume thoroughfare for the whole county – countless cars streamed past me as I was circling Tender Fluff to get a lay of the land and figure out where to park, it lacks ambiance. However the first rule of donut exploration is “don’t judge a donut by its building”.

When I walked through the door, I had the feeling of being the greenhorn walking into an old western bar. The ladies gathered around the table knew me for the outsider I was. After watching me gaze around the space and looking dejectedly at the dozens of empty plastic tubs lining the counters and tables one of the donut slingers directed me to the main counter. She guided the greenhorn to the last creme horns and random remaining donuts. The place is open until 1 pm but often sells out well before that. I came through the door just after high noon. I could tell from my clinical style observations that hours ago there had been at least fifty varieties of donuts in this space. Even the bins labeled day old donuts were bare to the bottom.

The display case had maybe thirty donuts left and since it looked like the ladies were getting ready to call it a day I was offered a deal – a dozen of any type, even the “specials” for $8. That is a good deal, especially when I was given a true bakers dozen. Among my assortment was a cannoli. I am always wary of any cannoli in Ohio. Over 95% of what I have tried in the Buckeye state have been a dismal disappointment (since my cannoli baseline is based on the Italian bakeries of old Boston, it is a high bar). Because of my past cannoli experiences, I did not bother to try the one I picked up until the next day…..and it was SUPERIOR! The key to Tender Fluff is to get to the doors early (5:30 or 6:00 am).

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The other donuts and “specials” I tried were all of high quality. In particular, the simple, long thin stick donuts were melt in your mouth light and featured a thin, sweet glaze which helped these tubes of dough slight right down into my belly. The icing used as filling in two of the donuts was also among some of the best I have tried in my dough fueled travels. Another interesting feature, Tender Fluff offers both soft and hard creme horns. I have never been a creme horn advocate but in this case the soft creme horn was a game changer for me and a perfect platform for delivering large volumes of creme.

A few other tasting notes. My next destination for the day was 4 Mile Bakery a few miles away. Located at the mid-point between these two donut purveyors is a local favorite Rowdy’s Smokehouse . I, of course picked up an order of BBQ to go (to eat on my way to McArthur). Even though Rowdy’s messed up my order, I was impressed with what I consumed (over several days).

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Tender Fluff on Facebook
91 Harding Ave.
Jackson
740 286 6619
Monday to Friday 5:30 am to 1 pm
Saturday 6 am until all is gone

Tender Fluff Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Main Eatery, McArthur

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 4, 2016

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Discovery of Main Eatery is linked to three important things: donuts, hot dogs and an itch to roam. Readers have read much about my explorations on SR 56 this year. What started as an alternate and much longer way to get to O’Betty’s in Athens, with a tacked on excuse to try out what turned out to be one of the best donut spots in the state turned out to be a journey of discovery. On my first trip through McArthur I drove right by Main Eatery without taking note of it. This is an easy thing to do. Fortunately, the Grumpy Old Man was with me on the first drive-by and he happened to spy a sign for a 21 piece shrimp basket. Our next trip through town, resulted in a very brief drop in which gave me enough information to want to block out time to explore this cinder block treasure trove of comfort foods again.

As alluded to before, the Main Eatery is easy to bypass. It is a small block building that is ubiquitous to many rural and suburban areas of Ohio. Typically these shacks push out soft serve ice cream and some secondary or ever afterthought items like hot dogs and a few generic sandwiches. They get the job done and tend to be seasonal businesses. From a distance Main Eatery could easily blend into this category. The eatery is easy to miss and dismiss due to minimal, generic signage and a bland exterior. There is noting outside to suggest what the menu has to offer within.

Main Eatery is definitely a shake shack (so to say) offering well over 100 combinations of milkshake flavors. I’m not sure what type of ice cream they scoop but I can vouch that the sum of all the shaken and stirred parts is exceptional. I sipped on the best Pumpkin milkshake of my life while driving back to Columbus from McArthur. The flavor was great and the thickness perfectly balanced. I expected good from Main Eatery but not incredible.

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The extensive assortment of dairy delights is just a preview of coming attractions on the main menu. Over six pages long, it is packed with an assortment of sandwiches, entrees, snack foods, subs, wraps, baked potatoes, a Cuban sandwich, all types of pork dishes and a lot more. I’m not sure how they pack so many ingredients into such a small place. Even more surprising, how can so much, be done so well, in such minimal square footage. Much of the menu is made from scratch. The pork is slow roasted. A fair amount of ingredients are locally sourced when possible. I would have never guessed or expected this. I am glad I sleuthed it out.

Main Eatery does have a disadvantage it is always the fourth, fifth or sixth spot on one of my journeys of discovery so I have not been able to do in-depth investigation. I am certain, beyond reasonable doubt the eatery has the best Cole slaw south of 70. I sampled it twice now and was beyond pleased both times. The texture of the shaved cabbage, the balance of sauce and spice and just the right amount of carrot shavings make this mixture hard to beat. On this scouting mission, I ordered the “Hop Slop” to go. Included in this dish: homemade (made to order) potato chips, slow roasted pulled pork BBQ, cheese sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, a side of Cole slaw and a pickle spears. I had a few of the chips before the wheels hit the road and I ate the rest of the dish three hours later. I was very happy with my selection.

Although my research time and subjects at Main Eatery have been constrained I’m still confident in my endorsement. Service has been friendly and informative on each of my trips. If you have time to linger you do have options. The space is simple. There is an eating area on the porch. A few tables dot a small eat in space inside. The walls are decorated with a mix of old milk bottles for various Ohio diary from days of yore, an assortment of pop bottles and various knick knacks. Their next door neighbor is a service center for at risk youth in Vinton County. Main Eatery is an unlikely diamond in the rough inside a small town that is easy to breeze by on your way to the Hocking Hills but it is well worth dropping in to visit. Based on the potato chips here as well as those just down the street at Mama Renie’s Pizza it is fair to say McArthur is the homemade potato chip capital of the Buckeye state.

Main Eatery Menu

Main Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Market Street Soda Works

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 25, 2016

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When I heard about the opening of Market Street Soda Works in Newark, I was excited to check out what they had to offer. The challenge was finding the time to do it. The business opened in June 2016 in the revitalized (and still under construction and development) downtown Newark. In a world where we walk into a grocery store and find ourselves overwhelmed with options or open a restaurant menu with ten pages it is refreshing to find a place that does just one thing…..carbonated beverages.

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Before I move on, let’s settle one thing. A century old debate is whether Pop is Soda or is Soda Pop? In some parts of the country the use of the “wrong” term can be grounds for ridicule. I go on the record as being a Pop man. Soda Pop when condensed to just one word for efficiency is best served with the term Pop. Pop is pop….no debate about what it is. Whereas Soda can be soda water, a soda fountain, baking soda, etc., etc. Pop sends a clear message and soda sends a mixed message about the subject at hand. That being said, I fully support Market Street Soda Works in both name and mission. Using the KISS principle….Keep It Simple – Soda.

Owner Tim Argyle has a life long love of root beers, red pops, apple beers and the like. Tim has curated an impressive assortment of over 100 sodas from all over the country. In my extensive Pop (soda) research I have not found a better selection anywhere in Ohio. In addition to what is on the selves the Works offers four sodas on draft. These are supplemented by a soda fountain to accent those sodas with ice cream to create tasty floats. All in all the end result is a carbonation conundrum – what to drink and what to take home.

I found more than a few sodas (pops) that I have never been able to locate in the Buckeye State. Seeing everything on display I was thrilled to see old regional soda companies from around the country, many from the 1920’s are still popping around. I was also excited to see some many new “craft” sodas that have popped up in the last few years mirroring the rise of craft beer throughout the country. Pre-Prohibition most communities has a local brewery and a local pop – often times created in the same place. Drink local works just as well with beer as with pop in my book.

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Market Street Soda works is open Tuesdays and Fridays 11 am to 8 pm to align with the Farmers Market schedule. Food trucks set up near the entrance to offer a food option to pair with the pops. If you are anxious to excite your taste buds with new flavors, Market Street Soda Works is well worth the drive to Newark.

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Market Street Soda Works
14 E Market St, Newark, OH 43055
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